Celebrating the struggle

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 2, 2006

“I stand on the shoulders of those who fought for our right to vote.

Without their successful struggle, I would not be serving you in the Alabama Senate.

Neither would I be serving so many in other ways.

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That’s why we must never forget the Struggle for the Right to Vote.

That’s why we must continuously celebrate that struggle.”

These words emanated from me last Friday on the radio program, Faya’s Fire.

I also shared additionally as I urged people to celebrate through the upcoming Bridge Crossing Jubilee/National Voting Rights Celebration.

I never forget that I stand on the shoulders of those who went before me, moving forward as they struggled to survive.

I understand that I hold these positions of service not because I am smarter, better educated, luckier, or more blessed but because I stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before me.

I know I hold these positions because of a great victory so I celebrate.

We must celebrate that great victory because it made us all winners, even though some of us neither realize nor appreciate that reality.

We see how the two sides were so different.

One side possessed an array of virtually all traditional power: the law; the lawmen; the money; the businesses; the jobs; the military; a majority population; the local and state media; the political positions, etc.

The other side had almost nothing.

It was out-manned and out-gunned on every front.

Yet there was a great victory so we must celebrate.

The philosophies, strategies and tactics of each side were strikingly different.

One side was steeped in the long established philosophy of violence.

The other pursued a philosophy of non-violence untried on American soil.

The strategy of one was holding some down and all back.

The strategy of the other was to break loose the chained and lift up those knocked down.

One side utilized tactics of singing, praying, marching and mass meetings.

The other forbade mass meetings and marching and tried to limit other manifestations of struggle.

So different and yes, so opposite.

Yet each was convinced they were right and the other wrong.

Still there was a great victory whose fruit benefit us all today.

On Bloody Sunday, those utilizing non-violence were bloodied, battered, scattered and pursued by those utilizing violence.

The evidence of a crushing defeat was everywhere.

Yet those beaten down, connecting with others in non-violent struggle, rose up to share in a great victory.

The victory was confirmed by President Lyndon Johnson’s calling the nation to arms with words from the Civil Rights Battle Hymn, “We shall overcome.”

It was confirmed by the Selma to Montgomery March.

The ultimate confirmation, however, flowed from the fruit produced: the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It was a great victory that freed us all.

While we celebrate, we must also rededicate ourselves.

We must never forget that the right to vote for some of us was entrenched in the U.S. Constitution by virtue of the Fifteenth Amendment.

Within two to three decades, that right was so determinedly and thoroughly snatched from our grasp.

If we are not dedicated, it will be snatched again.

In our rededication, we must fight to extend the preclearance provisions of Sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

In our rededication, we must insure the vote by those who have paid their dues after falling afoul of the law.

In our rededication, we must meet every challenge that threatens our right to vote.

I’m celebrating on Thursday night by going to the mass meeting at Tabernacle Baptist Church.

I’m celebrating on Friday by sharing in the Invisible Giants conferences, the Mock Trial, the Miss Jubilee Pageant and other events.

I am celebrating on Saturday by sharing in the Jubilee parade; the first Bridge Crossing Golf Tournament; the gospel, blues and other powerful musical performances; the myriad of food and fun; and the Freedom Flame Awards Ceremony.

I am celebrating on Sunday by sharing in several church services with national speakers and marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge (to the extent my arthritic knees will permit). I’m celebrating on Monday by participating in the Slow Ride Caravan from Selma to Montgomery where I and others will share with the children our struggles in forging, maintaining and advancing that great victory.

All the while I am celebrating, I will be rededicating myself so that the right to vote will still be here for my grandchildren, your grandchildren and generations to come.

It’s the least I can do.

It’s the least we can do.